BELMAR, NJ — TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como asked the two candidates vying for the three-year seat on the Belmar Council — incumbent Thomas W. Brennan and newcomer Joshua Vallario — questions on their qualifications, important issues facing the borough and their top priorities if re-elected or elected. Here is what they said, in their own words.

THOMAS W. BRENNAN
Brennan, 61, of 11th Avenue has lived in Belmar for 25 years. He is a music teacher and band director at Belmar Elementary School and also is a performing musician. Brennan is married with three children. Democrat.

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Brennan is completing his first three-year term on the borough council. He served on the zoning board of adjustment in 2014, and was treasurer and coach with the Belmar-Avon-Lake Como Little League (BALC), as well as a trustee, treasurer and founding member of the Belmar Arts Council.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

“I have lived, worked and volunteered in Belmar for decades. I know the town, I love the town and want to do everything I can to keep Belmar moving forward with stable taxes, programs for all residents and environmental actions to protect our beautiful one-square mile town.

“My wife and I raised our three grown children here and have been involved in the community for 25 years. As a Belmar Elementary School (BES) teacher, I’ve been fortunate to know and guide thousands of Belmar’s young people, including my own. My years at BES have given me valuable insight.

“In addition, I worked as a summer gate attendant at the Belmar beach for seven years before I was elected to the council, which offered a close-up look at how much our residents and visitors love our beach, boardwalk and the way we run them. Belmar isn’t Belmar without our beach. Taking care of it is one of my top priorities.

“I’ve also volunteered in many different areas over the years. My interest in youth sports led to coaching recreation soccer, wrestling, softball and a stint as treasurer of the BALC Little League. My passion for the arts evolved into a turn as a founder, treasurer and trustee of the Belmar Arts Center. A term on the Belmar Zoning Board of Adjustment gave me greater understanding about Belmar.

“And I will never, ever forget the weeks following Superstorm Sandy when my wife, son Seán and I spent countless hours at borough hall headquarters and cleaning out damaged homes. My familiarity with Belmar families allowed me to offer guidance and compassion to many people as they struggled to put their lives back together.

“I will continue to use my experience, passion and commitment to keep Belmar a great place to live, work, retire, and raise a family.”

What are the most-important issues facing the borough?

“I remain committed to Belmar’s smart growth, fiscal responsibility and terrific activities for all ages. In addition, I’m focusing on new environmental initiatives to protect our waterways, our neighborhoods and our natural resources. After all, a healthy environment provides Belmar with a healthier economy.”

If re-elected, what are your goals?

“I want to help Belmar expand our innovative thinking about shared services and other cost-saving measures; leverage our family-friendly activities; and explore programs and technologies that increase preparedness in extreme weather events.

“More specifically, here are a few things I’ve already begun and will continue to work on immediately in my second term on the council:

  • Further reduce the use of polluting single-use plastic bags. Because Belmar is surrounded by water on three sides, I recognize that keeping these waters clean is absolutely crucial to the health of your family and mine.
  • Implement the rebuilding of protective dunes on our beach with native Jersey beach plants to make an attractive beachscape, unique on the shore.
  • Provide Belmar’s children with water survival skills so tragedies like the one we experienced this summer will not happen again.
  • Revisit the fees charged to residents, especially nonprofit groups, for the use of Taylor Pavilion. Our public spaces should be accessible to all.”

 

JOSHUA VALLARIO

Vallario, 42, of 10th Avenue has lived in the borough for five years. The real estate portfolio manager is married with two daughters. Republican.

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Vallario has not served in any elected office or in any municipal capacity.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

 “I have very well rounded experience across multiple platforms, due to my tenure in the private sector. The skills I have acquired during my career can be of great benefit to Belmar, as I have worked in the financial arena for 17 years, designing, managing the development and post-construction operations of large-scale technology centers throughout the globe.

 “I spent the last 11 years of my career with the largest financial asset management firm in the world as a director managing the global data center operations and construction team. My responsibilities included managing projects with capital budgets up to $100 million — these projects were all completed on time and on or under budget. My operations responsibilities included managing a large global team with an annual budget of $25 million.

“During my last corporate project, I was responsible for managing the land acquisition, engineering design effort and construction phase of a large data center. This involved coordinating with local and national union leaders, coordinating with New York state and municipal tax incentive programs, and coordinating with the N.Y. Department of Transportation.

“Since then, I've retired from Corporate America to focus all of my efforts on continuing to grow my real estate investment business — a business that I have spent the past 15 years building."

What are the most-important issues facing the borough?

  • “We need an administration that is focused on the residents first. This includes putting an end to "back-room" deal making with large third-party, for-profit corporations that are reaping large financial gain because of our tax dollars, constructing buildings like the Taylor Pavilion — a building that was supposed to benefit the residents of Belmar, but is now being fully monopolized by a catering business.
  • There is an extreme lack of transparency within borough hall and an "us against them" mentality. This, along with the egregious acts of political bullying that are carried out against the residents that are in opposition of the administration, needs to end.  
  • The Main Street Business District needs help and attention. We have to create ways that allow businesses to flourish within our town. By working with business and building owners, we can attract more family visitors and renters.
  • Quality of life for our residents. We need to expand on item #3 (above) and work with the summer landlords as well, teaching them how to cater more toward family renters and put an end to the rowdy party crowds. In addition, we need to review our list of special events and scale them down and/or eliminate some. Special events should focus on two factors — Does it benefit residents? Does it benefit the businesses in town. The blocked streets and added public works/police costs should not be allowed if the local business and residents are not the ones benefiting from the events.  
  • We must regain control on the unnecessary bonding that is occurring within the current administration. Under this administration's reign, we have racked up tens of millions of dollars of debt. We must be very conscious of what we spend our money on in the future in order to avoid an increase in our property taxes.”

If elected, what are your goals?

  • “Focus on the residents and businesses within town, making sure that their voices are heard and keeping their concerns a priority.
  • End the status quo and blind "rubber stamping" that is occurring on the dais. Three of the four council members seem to be blindly following the mayor's direction and are just not qualified to make the decisions that are being asked of them.  
  • Improve the business district and attract better and more strategic businesses.  
  • Create ways to reduce the number of rowdy summer renters and shift toward family renters. This will be a great benefit to the businesses in town and it will improve everyone's quality of life.  
  • Work on budgetary improvements and stop any unnecessary spending. We need to begin budgeting for replacement costs as capital purchases are made, so we can stem budget over-runs and not have to play the shell game that seems to be taking place. For example, if we purchase a police vehicle today for $70,000 and that car has a useful life of seven years, we should be setting aside $10,000 a year for the next seven years, so the money is there to buy a new one when needed.”

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